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The Customer-Centered Innovation Map

| On 04, May 2008

Ellen DombHarvard Business Review’s “Tool Kit” article this month (May 2008) is “The Customer-Centered Innovation Map” by my colleagues Lance Bettencourt and Tony Ulwick.  With all the soft (squishy?) “how to be innovative” articles and books getting published these days, it is a real pleasure to read a clear method that makes sense, that any of us can do using a combination of common sense and customer research tools.  

A simple summary of the three steps is as follows:

            1. Break down the task that the customer wants done into a series of steps.  (Not what they are doing now, but what they want to do.  You’ll have to get out of your office and go see real customers!) 

            2. This will show you all the places where your customer might need help                      

            3. Then, consider innovations to make each step simpler, easier, faster, if the customer is satisfied with the current basic performance, and to make it better if the customer is unsatisfied.  

This is a very powerful tool for getting companies to step back from focusing on their current offerings, and looking for new opportunities.  To inject a bit of TRIZ vocabulary, it uses an available resource in the environment—the customer for your current products—as the source of information and stimulus for new ideas.   

Real Innovation and TRIZ Journal readers will see the clear link in step 3 to whatever methods they use now—once you know what the customer needs to do her job more effectively, you’ll know where to innovate.  The saddest problem that I see in TRIZ workshops is people who say that their problem is that they don’t know what to work on—here’s the cure for that problem.

Try it (well, read the article first…) and use the “comments” button to let us know your experience.